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The Importance of Awards

 Tuesday, 18th September, 2018

Words by Mark Shenton

Life isn't a competition; we're all in it together. But recognition is nice too, and it's always a pleasure to both receive and give awards for excellence. As a critic, I am professionally charged with seeing a lot of theatre; it's also a private passion, so I go to see far more shows than I ever need to review (well in excess of 300 shows a year). So it's good to be able to return the favour of all that pleasure I get from it (and pass over some of the pain) and use the knowledge I've gained in being on numerous judging and nominating committees for various theatre awards.

Earlier this month h Club London presented its annual h100 Awards, honouring those who are making waves in the creative industries. I was on the judging panel for the theatre and performance category to draw up the final shortlist of ten which was then handed over to the public. As I wrote in the programme for the event about this category, "It was not intentional, but it is certainly striking that the majority (seven out of ten) nominations are for women; and also that the nominees are drawn from a spectrum that includes actors, writers, artistic directors, designers, and the head of a leading UK drama school. Each of them have broken new ground in their fields, like setting up a cross-discipline venue that includes incorporating a city's main public library and reinventing long-established theatres, or constantly challenged themselves and us in their career choices, or offering bright new hopes for the future. We are thrilled to celebrate them."

The award was won on the night by the rapidly-emerging theatre director Ola Ince. As she told The Stage, "I’m feeling really blessed, very loved and supported and I’m really happy that people voted for me. It’s great to be acknowledged – it feels like my hard work has been recognised."

Of course, the other nine nominees were recognised, too, by the fact of their nominations. So it's not just about winning.

I've also recently participated in the judging panels for The Stage Debut Awards, recognising actors and creatives who have made their professional debuts across the last year. The winners will be announced on Sunday September 23. As The Stage's editor Alistair Smith has said, "When we launched The Stage Debut Awards last year, we wanted them to serve as a platform to celebrate and support the best emerging talent in theatre. In their first year, they did precisely that – and more. Many of our exceptional winners from 2017 have already gone on to even bigger and better things and we’re delighted to be able to bring the awards back for a second year."

Next month the annual UK Theatre Awards, honouring those in regional theatre, will take place at the Guildhall in the City of London on Sunday October 14. I've also been on the judging committee for that. It is, of course, impossible for any one critic to have seen every single production in an eligible theatre; but with leading critics from a wide range of national publications represented, we've seen a lot between us, and can individually champion achievements we've seen. In some ways this is the most democratic way of doing it; we work to convince each other of what the best achievements of the year have been.